Preserving public documents in digital age


A chara, – I would like to voice my support for John FitzGerald’s comments regarding the need for the preservation of Government agency and other official documents and data for future generations (“New laws needed to preserve public documents in digital age”, Analysis, September 7th).

It was my experience as a senior researcher (law) in the Library and Research Service of the Oireachtas that the thrust of library services was in the direction of favouring digital materials over hard copies, be they books, law reports, statutes, articles or government publications.

Prof FitzGerald points out that digital documents may vanish when a website closes. As government departments are rebranded, earlier iterations are removed, deleted and replaced; this is also the case with the websites of semi-State agencies. In addition, the updating of data on websites means that older data is deleted and forgotten, along with supporting explanations for related and dependent policies.

It is usually my practice to request a hard copy report of a particular publication if I wish to study it in detail. Frequently I am advised that “it is available on our website”. If they are not printed in hard copy, then they are not available for loan from public libraries.

It is true that there is a need for environmental considerations when printing documents, but there is a greater need for dissemination of information, and structured archiving of public documents. – Is mise,



Co Sligo.